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The Poverty Game


Once again we have a ruckus over poverty numbers. Is Douglas County suffering a high poverty rate? Are the US Census numbers valid?

Of the five counties listed with the worst poverty data in Kansas three are homes to State Regents Universities. Is that an accident or does that play into the derivation of the census data?

It is no secret that in Douglas County we have many students who earn relatively low incomes. They then file federal income taxes to reclaim their deductions yielding data for the census bureau. Since there are a large number of students in Douglas County that data contributes significantly to a determination of poverty levels. Is that accurate?

Well, students do earn little. They do, however, have substantial income that is not counted in the derivation of poverty numbers. For many there is the Mon and Dad contribution. Loans and grants are another major source of income. Scholarships and other similar income also are part of the equation. Cash income may also escape note. None of this income is counted in the poverty statistics.

Now I am not faulting the census bureau or their process. I am confident it works well for a general determination of poverty. I do, however, question its validity for counties where there are large student populations relative to total population.

As citizens we should be asking ourselves if the possible distortion created by college students could lead to misallocation of poverty funding away from the truly needed. In fact we may ask ourselves if a whole lot of numbers banded about in these pages truly reflect the economic status of our town and county. Could we be preying unintentionally on the parts of Kansas that are not as well off as we really may be


jhawkinsf 5 years, 1 month ago

As long as we reward victims, there will be a certain number of people who will strive for victimhood. We can argue until we're blue in the face what that number is, but it exists.

beatrice 5 years, 1 month ago

George, good point on the student population. How does that relate to other cities and states? Does New Haven, Connecticut, for example, show up as a similarly poverty stricken area? What do the numbers reflect when students are removed from the equation? I believe you would probably need to look at more than just a single state to see if there is a similar trend of universities and poverty levels. if there is a multi-state correlation to your theory, then you might be onto something with the possible misallocation (and thus, over collection) of funds to help those in need. It seems like something worth looking into.

George Lippencott 5 years, 1 month ago


I am not sure it generalizes. New Haven is a big metro area and the students are probably not as large a proportion. Now College Station Texas might play but then the size of counties also play and many other states have much larger counties.

My comment is merely a hypothesis. There are people paid to do the kind of research you suggest.

Alceste 5 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence, and the Oread Neighborhood Association has been exploiting this dumb system of counting students as residents for a long, long time.

The City of Lawrence has jacked up it's "poverty statistics" to Uncle Sam and the Community Development Block Grant program since it's inception. Hence, Lawrence has received monies it really wasn't entitled to and the "Planning" section, filled to the brim with "planners", has worked long and hard to squander the money on such noteworthy projects as the stairway to nowhere. ($65k+ in concrete for steps that go exactly where?); or the new "lighted path" from Bros. Bar to The Oread hotel megastructure of bars. Good deal!

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